New Orleans Attorney Pays for Stalling
by Dave Workman
New Orleans attorney Joseph Vincent DiRosa has, as ordered by the court, provided a check to attorneys representing the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) to reimburse the two organizations for legal expenses incurred due to his “wholly unprofessional” stalling tactics, as defined by Federal District Judge Carl Barbier.
The check, for $1,365, was drawn on DiRosa’s personal account at the city’s Whitney National Bank. Baton Rouge attorney Dan Holliday, who, along with Virginia attorney Stephen Halbrook, is representing SAF and NRA in their federal lawsuit against the city and Mayor Ray Nagin, deposited the check in a client trust account.
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb told Gun Week that even the check took some time getting “through channels.” It was dated Feb. 19within the 10-day time period that the judge had ordered DiRosa to pay the fee out of his own pocketbut it did not reach Holliday until March 5. Barbier had made some blistering remarks about DiRosa’s delaying tactics in his February ruling that upheld a contempt motion filed against Nagin and Police Superintendent Warren Riley by SAF and NRA.
Gottlieb saw the check as a small, but symbolic victory in the long-running federal lawsuit, filed in the days following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.
“The city and its attorney seem to have been thinking that if they just ignore this lawsuit, it will go away,” Gottlieb said. “They’re wrong. This lawsuit is about returning those illegally seized firearms to their owners, and making sure this kind of thing never happens again on American soil.”
That lawsuit was aimed at halting warrantless gun grabs in the city by police and National Guard troops who had been ordered to assist residents and restore order following the Force 5 Hurricane. After 18 months of delays and legal wrangling, city officials still will not say who originally issued the order that guns be confiscated from private citizens, a detail that SAF has been requesting since the outset.
After the hurricane hit and parts of the city were flooded, SAF and NRA joined forces in the landmark lawsuit when reports surfaced quoting then-Police Superintendent Eddie Compass that only the police would be allowed to have firearms. What followed was a civil rights outrage for gun rights activists, as bands of patrolling police, many from outside the state, and National Guard troops systematically went house-to-house, stopped boats on Lake Pontchartrain or searched vehicles trying to leave the city, only for the purpose of confiscating firearms.
For months, the city denied having confiscated guns, until in early 2006, SAF and NRA attorneys went to court with a request for a contempt citation. They were finally met at the court by the city’s attorney, who acknowledged that the city did have “some guns” in a storage facility. The number turned out to be more than 1,000 firearms, according to estimates by Holliday and Halbrook, who had been allowed to view the storage facility the city had established for the seized guns.
But even after SAF and NRA withdrew the contempt motion, the city continued to stall. DiRosa would not even return phone calls, and finally on the new contempt motion, he acknowledged to Barbier that he had no good reason for the delays. That was when the judge ordered him to reimburse SAF and NRA for partial legal costs.
An NRA spokesman noted, “While we are grateful for this small payment, we remain steadfast in our belief that the city of New Orleans continues to be in contempt of court and must make every effort possible to return the wrongfully and illegally confiscated firearms to their rightful owners.”
Return to Archive Index